The Student Volunteer Army was founded after the Christchurch Earthquakes in 2010. Sam Johnson, along with a team of other students, organised 11,000 volunteers to shovel liquefaction out of the city. In the years since, the Student Volunteer Army has diversified to encourage volunteering at all stages of education – primary, secondary and tertiary – reaching 65,000 students across New Zealand.
In March 2020, before lockdown was announced, it became apparent that access to grocery delivery would become a problem for the elderly, immune-compromised and others who couldn’t leave their home.
Over the course of 10 days, the Student Volunteer Army formed a Grocery Delivery Service. They designed, prototyped and built an entire online grocery store with a fully functional and secure payment system and back-end operation. They also set up a call centre operation, staffed by volunteers, in order to take grocery orders via phone (for people without access to the internet).
During lockdown, more than 3,000 volunteers delivered thousands of grocery items. They worked with 52 supermarkets, answered more than 1,000 phone calls for support and partnered with local communities to (contactlessly) deliver groceries.
The impact was two-fold: while the team delivered food and goods, they also provided connectivity and friendliness.
Post lockdown, the organisation is partnering with district health boards and aged care providers to help people needing grocery deliveries after leaving hospital or due to homecare needs.